Sri Lanka is famous for its cricket. Nowhere on Earth, is the game of cricket played with more passion than in Sri Lanka . Its roots are obviously colonial and many of the flourishing cricket clubs of today sprung up at some time during the last century.
Test Cricket started in 1877 with a match between England and Australia but the real growth and world-wide popularity of test cricket did not begin until the second half of the 20th century and by the millennium the number of test playing countries had increased to 10. Sri Lanka was the eighth nation to gain test status, which was granted by the ICC in 1981. Before that, cricketing relations between England and Sri Lanka had always been good. Traditionally Sri Lanka became a halfway stop off for MCC teams (as England touring teams were once known) travelling to Australia for a test series (by boat). It gave the MCC teams a chance to get off the boat and sample the magic of this exotic island ... and the cricket was good too! There was always a match arranged between the MCC and the national Sri Lankan team and it was, of course, played in the best possible spirit. It also gave the local cricket enthusiasts the chance to see such great players as Len Hutton, Dennis Compton, Peter May, Cohn Cowdray and Fred Trueman. These indeed were different days.
The first test match for Sri Lanka took place in February 1982 in Colombo and funnily enough who should be their first opponents but .. England ! This was an engrossing match, which the local team had a chance of winning but eventually experience prevailed and England won by seven wickets.
Sri Lanka gained their first series win in 1985 against India but the crowning glory was the World Cup win in 1996 where Sri Lanka comprehensively outplayed Australia to lift the greatest prize in one day cricket - the World Champions - now howzat! Celebrations went on for days on this cricket-mad island!
Ever since they became World Champions cricket has been more than just a game for Sri Lankans. While the game itself is played on every available strip of land by enthusiastic locals of any age, the exploits of the national team are followed by virtually the entire population. Sri Lanka cricket's superstars such as Sanath Jayasuriya, Muttiah Muralitharan and Aravinda De Silva are heroes to almost every schoolboy in the country.
Cricket is now big business in Sri Lanka with the best teams in the world touring the country on a regular basis. With these teams come their band of travelling supporters. Sri Lanka Tourism has been restructurising itself to cater to this new sports-tourist, with new facilities being developed in the vicinity of the nation's international sports stadiums in Colombo , Kandy , Galle , and most recently, in Dambulla.
Sri lanka is also proving an ideal destination for school and cricket club the UK where visitors will find the local opposition highly competitive but very hospitable.